I'm going to keep using VPNs for a while longer (you probably should too)

2017-03-10

I’ve been using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for a while now. I’ve used them on-and-off while traveling in the past, as well as for remote access and punching through security firewalls. After I switched to Verizon for wireless connectivity I started using them on my phone more or less full time, since Verizon is netorious about messing with it’s customers data (search for “verizon supercookie” for a prime example).

Jacob Kastrenakes at The Verge wrote a good article about the whole mess going on right now. You should go read it and soak it up because it’s a accurate recounting of the problems customer have almost no input to, and yet are the ones who are being targeted. There’s a lot of politics in this, and without going into it I’ll say I’m not a friend of the current FCC.

Regardless of what your opinions are, the fact of the matter is that going forward its almost certainly going to be totally legal for your ISP to spy on you and then sell that data to whomever it wants, without asking for your permission. Is it harmless? I don’t believe it is. Thankfully I don’t have to put up with it, nothing requires me to make it easy for them to spy on me, and I have tools to fight back. It’s worth noting that ISPs can’t spy on traffic secured by HTTPS (TLS) secure tunnelling. The whole point of TLS is to protect your communications between you and the website you are communicating with. The only way an ISP can get involved is if they have a relationship with the TLS-enabled website you’re visiting and that website chooses to share information with your ISP.

If the website (or other internet traffic) isn’t secured by TLS then you need to encrypt it yourself, one of the best ways to do that is using a VPN (warning: VPNs do NOT solve all your problems). These days, regardless of what connection I’m on, I send my Internet traffic through a VPN. It’s nobody’s business but mine what I’m doing online. I’ve pointed people at privacytools.io in the past, and I’m going to do so again. It’s a very nice collection of information, utilities, and services that you can use to help maintain your privacy online. I’ll specifically point you at the VPN section. It’s a good starting point for picking a service.

Personally right now I’m using NordVPN. It’s a pretty good service, with lots of remote endpoints, and good multi-platform support. I recently got beta access to ProtonVPN, so I’m testing that out as well.

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